Monday, March 2, 2015


Director: Laura Poitras. This is a documentary about Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who exposed the widespread surveillance of the online activity of millions of citizens. The film raises the question of the limits of the power the state does or should exercise over citizens. If one has the fear that everything one does or says is being observed, it obviously puts limits on discussion, which is a limitation on freedom and democracy. Extremely terse and gripping as a spy thriller, this is a necessary watch for the sake of things one needs to be aware of, if not paranoid about.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ida 2014

This film is shot in gloomy b/w. Ida, now in her twenties, a Polish Jew by birth, raised in a convent, is about to be formally inducted as a nun. She sets out to discover her past with help from her sole surviving relative, Her family was murdered, apparently for their house., She locates the burial site, digs out the bones, to inter them with some respect, a symbolic act of love for her parents she never saw. She has no taste for a normal life, and walks back to the convent. The film has an autumnal beauty, resonating with the memory of the terrible past. The tall tree trunks, mute witnesses, are shrouded in mist, the houses squalid and the restaurants swept by gloomy jazz. How quickly the world changes! The dream of the holocaust followed by Stalin has receded, like past plagues. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Korol Lir 1971...Kozintsev

This Soviet version of Lear is the finest of the several I have seen. It brings me closer to the heart of the drama. The great director brings to it a deep understanding of the play. The ambiance is a barbarous pre-medieval age, populated by cripples and destitutes, remiding one of Breughal. The mist blanketed Russian plain and a restless sea are captured in b/w. Multitudes appear with little justification except perhaps to palliate the censors and give it a socialistic stance by comparing it to the bad old days. Shakespeare in this play gives us nothing less than the grandeur and vastness of the inner world of human beings. His conception of Man is cosmic. Particularly well done are Lear's post abdication encounter with the two elder sisters, with Goneril giving an outstanding rendition of her part. Lear undergoes a spiritual transformation after the storm and his encounter with Cordelia as he opens his eyes to "fair daylight" is a literary tract to make us wonder. The climactic duel between the half brothers and the piling of bodies thereafter is something I grasped the first time. My words can hardly hope to suffice for this. This movie makes me want to read the play.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Even Godfather 2 was not as good as its predecessor. This second dystopian spoof lacks the plot novelty of the first part, and is essentially a technology flavored film wanting in human interest. Finally, it struck me as an action flick, with objects or people criss-crossing the screen at a high speed. The main attraction of the film for those who saw No 1 is the compulsion to know "What next?" And I may yet endure 3 and 4 for the same reason.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hunger Games 2012

This film draws you in and keeps you hooked for a good 2 1/2 hours. What accounts for the success of the film and what does that speak of us and those who made it? It is a well told story with an unusual plot. The viewers of the online life and death drama are brutish and dull, They watch it with perverse and exaggerated relish. The dialog has a bizarre humor, like Tarantino. I can imagine squeals of laughter and delight in the cinema theater, as one character after another appear, like a circus or a zoo. The violence is not really graphic,so the watchers can stay in a relaxed comfort zone as they consume their pop corn. The power of the film derives from its central character, Catniss, the hunted huntress, seamlessly combining male and female qualities.

From Shakespeare onward, story tellers have understood that people love to watch blood shed. The Greeks had gladiators. We have wars, gangsters, genocides, bull fights. The game gets ever deadlier.